St. Paul, MN, USA
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THEN (1965): Being interviewed by Hugh Downs was exciting/terrifying/thrilling. In fact, I was so nervous that I couldn’t think, my voice quavered and I couldn’t even breathe properly.
It certainly wasn’t Hugh Downs’ fault. The person he was supposed to interview wasn’t available and I was chosen to fill in. He was interviewing people with interesting jobs (my job for Ford Motor Company at the World’s Fair in 1965 was envied by many) for a recording that would be used for "the listening pleasure" of people serving in Vietnam fighting a war of which I was barely cognizant.
Hugh Downs was so patient and soft-spoken, it would have put most people at ease…however, there was that microphone. Even his kindness couldn’t do away with my fear I couldn’t even speak one sentence without a wavering voice or breathing between words. Two minutes seemed like an eternity. Mr. Downs must have thought he was there for hours just trying to get that brief cut.
Later, I was mailed a record of that session. On it were others, some of whom are even names familiar even today like Martin Sheen and Chubby Checker.
I was so embarrassed that I didn’t listen to that recording for 25 years - and then it was only at the request of my teenage nieces who thought it was "cool" that their aunt had been interviewed by Hugh Downs.
When I did listen to that nervous, unsure, naïve young woman who couldn’t even string a full sentence together without a wavering voice, I wanted to reach out and calm her down.
NOW (2000): This year, was the second time I listened to my former self (35 years after the original recording). This time I feel in such awe of how innocent I was, how untouched I had been in my early 20’s, how open I was and how trusting.
I would like to embrace that former self and give her a big hug because she had no idea that she would develop a social conscience and an F.B.I. record.
That same year (1965) I was to meet the Berrigan brothers somewhere in Manhattan and little did I know that a few short years later my brother would be serving in Vietnam and with a "raised awareness," I would become active in the antiwar movement. This led to my participation in protests both in the streets of Detroit and Washington, D.C. Once my brother came home, he joined a group of us for a moratorium against the war in D.C.
I still have a picture of my family on the day he left for Vietnam. We are at the Detroit airport with the most solemn sad faces. You can feel the anguish of a family in this little snapshot. My parents kept a star (a white felt star on a blue and red background) in the window of our home reminiscent of the Second World War. It was a very happy day when we were able to take it down and my brother was alive.
Now as I listen to that young girl on a recording so many years later, I realize…yes that was me, so unformed and uninformed. Little did I realize what turns my life would take and how little we know about what is ahead of us. I honor her innocence and the courage that would eventually come to the surface but was certainly well hidden under that nervous exterior.